Color workflows in vfx were certainly easier just a few years ago. In advertising we only had to deal with rec709 files, the footage, shot on film (or sometimes on a HD camera), was digitized and graded in the telecine, visual effects were applied later.
All the dynamic range of the original scene was already squeezed into the limited dynamic range of our displays, there was no need for high dynamic range, wide color gamuts or viewing LUTs. There was no color space confusion at all, the world was seemingly a bit easier but also less colorful and vibrant looking back.
This all changed with the dawn of digital cinema cameras in the early 2010s. All of a sudden it was no longer necessary to grade film and digitize it on tape, the camera footage was already digital and could be directly ingested for vfx.
This seemingly freeing step did cause a lot of confusion in our industry, workflows that were time tested and clearly defined did change and a lot of new parameters were added. All of a sudden the camera footage revealed values way above the range of zero to one, that we were used to before. I mean c’mon values above one.
There were many discussions about what was the right way to work with those files, how to look at those files and with all those discussions a thousand different opinions. People started to talk about linear workflows, or about graded and ungraded workflows, high dynamic range and wide color gamuts and many more things.
Today more than two decades later it seems the confusion still exists. There are new workflows and standards, but by talking with friends and coworkers in the industry about color and looking around the internet in any vfx forum, I realized a lot it is still not clear. The whole topic of color, color workflows and color spaces is one big conundrum.
So I decided to investigate and read as much about the topic color and color workflows as my time would allow. You all know how much time there is left for other things when working in vfx, so I am still reading.
In the next few blog entries I invite you to dive with me into the topic more deeply hoping that it will help a few of you to understand color and color workflows better. I already know it will help me to digest it better, since, and I am citing Richard Feynamn very loosely here, “If you can’t explain it you did not understand it”. So let’s see how that goes.
The approach I am choosing is a bit different from many of the “color for vfx entries” or “all you need to know about ACES” you find out there. I think it is important to understand what color is and how we humans see color first, because our color management and color reproduction devices are built to replicate what we see and how we see closely.
No worries, I will also write about ACES and wide gamuts.